The first step

Hello there!

I’m Jackie and I’m a 20-something lady on a journey to find out exactly what makes me happy, why it makes me happy, and how to do more of it.

Let’s do a quick re-cap: about a year after grad school I started working for state government as an infectious disease epidemiologist. It was my first salaried job (I refuse to call it my first “real job” because the 10 other random jobs that came before that were very real) and my dream job, but it turned out to not be everything I hoped it would be. Though I loved the subject matter of my work, I didn’t feel like I was actually making a difference and felt surrounded by negativity. I constantly felt unfulfilled and no matter how many articles I published or skills I learned, I felt empty and miserable. I dreaded getting up in the morning and would come home too burnt out to do anything enjoyable. I was totally miserable.

So I decided to make a change.

I applied to a bunch of jobs in the field of international health (which is what I had studied in graduate school), determined to try to pursue a career in this uber-competitive field. Seriously, these jobs have the most ridiculous lists of qualifications; if you don’t know English plus 2 obscure regional dialects, are able to use 10 different software programs only available to international development organizations, and have 5+ years of experience in a very specific field, you’re S.O.L. Regardless of my lack of knowledge of obscure regional dialects, I managed to get a job as a Technical Consultant at a well-known, well-established clinic in rural Thailand. I was going to assist and advice staff on implementing health information systems, epidemiology, and monitoring and evaluation systems. I was SO excited to have this opportunity. Never mind that my previous experiences to Southeast Asia had been less-than-ideal, never mind that I knew very little about health information systems, never mind that I’d be starting the job in rainy season, I was going to be making a difference in an amazing place, living abroad, and in my mind, living the dream. In about a month and a half, I  quit my secure, well-paying government job, sold my car, spent $1000+ on obscure vaccines (you do NOT want Japanese encephalitis said the travel clinic lady), left my boyfriend, puppy, and family, and flew 24+ hours to Thailand to start my one year contract.

Just over a month later, I was on a plane home. I knew almost from the start that this would not be my jam, I but I gave it a shot. I attempted to learn as much as I could about the clinic and the work I’d be doing. I watched Excel tutorials at night and enrolled myself in Thai lessons. I traveled to a nearby city on the weekend to take in Thai culture, made friends with fellow ex-pats, and learned to share my room with geckos without screaming “AHHH A GECKO” every single time I saw one. But once I realized the extent of the bureaucracy and level of tedium the job required (5 hour weekly meetings, proofreading spreadsheets, ass-kissing donors), I realized that this was not where I fit in either. In addition to to this, my supervisor quit within my first 2 weeks, leaving me feeling totally and completely alone. I had also been moderately sick since I arrived and was only getting sicker. When I finally went to a hospital after a bad headache, terrible nausea and dizziness, I realized I had lost 12 pounds in a span of 4 weeks. Though some people would jump for joy at that level of rapid weight loss, knowing my body, I became seriously concerned about my health.

So in a quick but very thorough assessment of my situation, I decided that I did not leave my miserable job in the USA just to start another miserable job in another country. Also at the advice of Dr. My Own Damn Self, I decided to come home and regroup. I’d recover from whatever had invaded my digestive system, figure out what I actually wanted to spend my time doing, and reconnect with the world around me.

So that brings me to this blog. A place for me to chronicle my adventures, learning experiences, observations, and general musings about this path that I am totally and completely making up as I go along.

Want to come along for the ride? Well, you’re going to have to drive, cause I did sell my car before moving to Thailand…